Books about running that aren’t about running

I’m not a fast runner. I’ll never win a major race, and I’m not particularly interested in going after a big marathon. I just like to run. Similarly, I’m  kind of a lousy reader— slow, prone to mixing up letters and words, easily distracted. Yet, I love to read, and I love to run. I also love to read about running. And I’m in luck: there is lots of great writing on the subject, from technical manuals to memoirs to novels to philosophy. While I love a good geek-out, it’s these latter categories that really grab me. Maybe because running can be so solitary and long miles give us time to think, writing on running is often perceptive and introspective. In fact, much of this writing is really more about living in the world than it is about putting on foot in front of the other. 

I certainly haven’t read every book about running (yet). But I find myself coming back to some favorites. The books I return to share a theme of running not just as a sport, but as a conduit for humanity. The first one that pulled me in was Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. Fans of Murakami’s fiction will recognize his voice: keen observation, simple description, slightly magical air. He writes about the routines of running, the suffering, the odd sense of comfort, and how these mirror the writing life. Reading it was meditative for me. Another classic, Running & Being, from the so-called “philosopher king” of running George Sheehan, delighted me in a different way. The chapters are titled things like “Living”, “Discovering”, “Learning”, “Racing”, and “Meditating”. Sheehan, like Murakami, is preoccupied with the suffering of running. Is this the secret sauce? Suffering? I don’t know, but there’s something about it that compels runners and writers alike.

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The Badass Female Project: Tesseract Edition

Meg Murry is an early (1962!) female sci-fi heroine of children’s literature: Madeline L’Engle’s  A Wrinkle in Time is a true classic. I remember reading this book as a kid and really loving it, but I didn’t remember it as science fiction. Yet it clearly is. To me, that suggests how much it succeeds. And this is science fiction with some actual science— physics and time/space travel, inpsired by Einstein—  not with futuristic weapons and spaceships like so much of what we’re inundated with.

So, Meg: what makes her so compelling, keeping this book in the zeitgeist all this time? Meg is awkward, physically. She has no confidence herself, and she wishes she could fit in (like anyone who was ever a teenage girl). She’s smart but can’t always work the way she’s “supposed” to, she’s angry, she gets in fights (fiery!), she’s impatient.  She’s fiercely loyal to her brother and her father.  And like many other badass females, she ultimately relies on love and integrity to fight the power. She puts herself through what she knows will be difficult circumstances because she knows she is the one who can succeed. She never set out to be a hero, but she sure acts like one. Meg is counseled to rely on her “faults” when she needs them— and that she does, to great effect, rescuing her father and her brother from frightening forces of evil.

Frightening, indeed:

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The Badass Female Project

Recently, I spent a year or so trying not to read things written by white men. It was challenging and led me to read a lot of things I might have overlooked otherwise. It was also surprising to me how difficult it was— not that I couldn’t find things to read, but that I had to look. And now, I don’t keep it as a rule, but I still seek out writers who are not cis-het-white-men. Try it. It may broaden your exposure to points of view you weren’t even aware you weren’t hearing

I’ve turned my sights on movies, lately, too. This is decidedly harder. I’m not a film scholar by any stretch of the imagination (I’ll leave that to Julia and Max), but I am interested in movies, in general. I am persistently astounded by how few movies pass the Bechdel test (which is an absurdly low bar), or how even very knowledgeable friends struggle to come up with more than handful of great female-led films.

I have lots of friends with little kids, so I think more about what kids are exposed to than I used to. Friends are on the lookout for great female role models besides the basic princess motif to inspire their kiddos. And then I realized, you know what? So am I. For me.

facebook post & replies looking at badass female protagonistsHence: The Badass Female Project. I started out by asking my facebook friends to identify favorite badass females in fiction, with bonus points for female creators. They came through, my facebook friends. And I was gratified that there was so much. And so this year, I’m taking it all in. It fuels my desire to be a more awesome human— be it training in the gym, improving my krav maga technique, spending time in mediation and yoga, building my professional accomplishments, being a super and strong partner/sister/daughter, and all the other stuff I do in my life. I’m looking for badass females— strong, imperfect, interesting, and inspiring folks who identify as female. From fiction, from real life, from anywhere in between.

So welcome to the #badassfemale project: a zabbylogica production. Please let me know your thoughts— what should I cover here? What should I read, watch, listen to? Who should I meet?

Coming soon: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Hunger Games, and Jessica Jones.